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As Long as We Remember...

September 20, 2010

‘Frederickana’ Election Fallout

Norman M. Covert

We witnessed the phenomenon of “Frederickana” while serving as a judge in the gubernatorial primary election at William R. Talley Recreation center last Tuesday. Top of the too-good-to-be-true list is the lady nonagenarian who walked the more than half-mile distance without escort from her home near Culler Lake, appearing as hale as any adult in the room.


Veteran workers believed the determined lady to have cast a ballot in the February 2008 presidential primary, trudging West Second Street through an icy drizzle that had many would-be voters cowering by their cozy fires. What a lady!


Another nearly-centenarian impressed us, showing up with sample ballot in hand and marked, walking resolutely with the judge to the voting unit. Both ladies answered with full birthdates when asked to verify their listings in the poll book.


Figuring backward, with ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920 and their ages, both ladies would have been eligible to vote in the 1932 presidential election. That pitted incumbent Herbert Hoover (R) against Franklin D. Roosevelt (D).


Our pride in these ladies belied what we felt about one young man. The process for a provisional ballot was begun when he complained that his polling place was too far away and he was due at work. However, he walked away saying he might come back at lunch time to complete it.


Thirty minutes later he was still sitting by the Flint Hill United Methodist Church food counter – coffee in hand, apparently unconcerned about the time clock or voting.


* * * * * * * * *


I realized my age when one of my former Senior Girl Scout Troop 1022 charges was espied sitting at one of the food tables. Now all grown up, she enthusiastically introduced me to her 18-year-old “Little Sister,” who had just voted for the first time – the teen’s pleasure obvious. So was mine, counting up the scouts and being reminded of the terrific young ladies who became quality adults.


* * * * * * * * *


The election team realized at the end of the day that we could count the trouble makers on one hand. One caused a ruckus after signing his Voter Authority Card (VAC). He turned while being escorted to the voting unit yelling that the viewing screen was turned up too high affording him no privacy. We must, by law, he demanded, have a flat viewing screen for his voting privacy.


Everyone watched as a chief judge was summoned to deal with him. Acknowledging him, the chief judge lowered the viewing screen without comment. The man scowled, turned to the unit and made his selections. He rejected the proffered “I Voted” sticker.


We recognized him as probably the same character who had stomped around during the 2008 presidential election complaining that the original Diebold voting system was flawed; it had no paper trail; we could commit fraud; and the units afforded no privacy. It was a repeat performance of his boorish behavior and bad manners.


* * * * * * * * *


The viewing screen was subject of an unofficial inquiry from one candidate who had been told his name had to be accessed by hitting the “NEXT” button on the voting screen. After he left, we realized that when voters selected the larger type font screen, the school board ballot pushed both candidates Earl Walquist and Brad Young to a page by themselves. It didn’t hurt Mr. Young’s chances. He garnered more than 15,000 votes, leading all comers.


With reference to the aforementioned citizen’s complaint about voting units and possibility of tampering, one of my duties was to print out results on each Voting Unit, an unmistakable paper trail.


The Armory was one of five locations where multiple precincts were merged so voters could use any of the Voting Units. At the end of the day we successfully printed separate precinct vote totals, providing them in proper chain of custody to the Election Board’s counters.


The paper trail was also posted on the exterior door of the Armory as we departed. The results of voting at Orchard Grove Elementary School were still attached to the door when Grandson Nicholas entered Wednesday morning.


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Most election workers have been pleased with the Diebold electronic poll books since their introduction here in the 2006 gubernatorial primary election. Our efforts that year were hampered when the software would freeze the computer software after registering some 40 voters. After an hour or so we realized that turning off and restarting the units would resolve it for the next 40. Problem solved. The software was fixed in time for the general election.


This year the units, now managed through a new owner, were reintroduced because of fiscal restraints. The poll books generally worked all right, finding voters and allowing judges to issue Voter Access Cards, which are used to authorize voting in the individual units.


Our consolidated location may have been an exception. The new software would freeze up our poll books if a voter’s name had double letters. If it was a common surname like Smith or Jones, poll books were so slow we often longed for the huge paper books of not so long ago. Most voters were tolerant, perhaps because there were no queues to contend with. No voters suffered other than a little wait.


The IT specialist assured us the team would check out poll books, but remarked the contractor was happy with the software and we would probably have a similar challenge in November. We’ll be ready.


The percentage of voters was disappointing, but not unexpected. There is time before the gubernatorial election November 2nd to request an absentee ballot, change party affiliation, update address information and even register. Use this URL:


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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